You Are at Fault: What Do You Do About the Damage to Your Car?

Insurance claim form paper on desk, shallow DOF.

If a wreck was your fault, you have no choice but to make a claim with your own insurance company under the collision coverage part of your policy. If you did not purchase collision coverage, you are on your own. To find out if you have collision coverage, you can contact your insurance agent or simply call the claims department for your insurance company. Most have a telephone hotline or internet claim process. If you financed your car, the bank or lender requires you have collision coverage.

If you have coverage, your insurance company will request you drive the car (if drivable) to a local claims center or body shop. If it’s not drivable, an insurance adjuster will go to where the car is located, usually a salvage yard where the car was towed after the wreck. An insurance adjuster will look at the car and decide how much it will cost to repair, or whether to declare the car totaled. Either way, the insurance company is only obligated to pay whichever costs less: Cost of repair or the market value of the car.In either circumstance, the deductible amount you selected when you took out the insurance policy will be subtracted.

Regardless of repair or totaling the car, it will take time to process your claim. Ask the claims adjuster if you purchased rental vehicle coverage. If so, you are entitled to a rental car paid by your insurance company until your car is fixed or until the insurance company writes you a check for the value of your car.  

You have the right to select the body shop you want to repair your car. You also have the right to voice concerns over the quality of the repair. Once your car is repaired, check it closely before you drive it home. If there is a concern over the quality of the work, talk to the body shop and the claims adjuster. If you feel your car does not drive like it did before the wreck, immediately take it back to the body shop and call the claims adjuster.

If your car is declared a total loss, your insurance company will determine the market value of your car and pay you that amount, less your deductible. How does anyone know the true market value of a car? There are resources on the internet that provide guidance on value, such as Kelly Blue Book. Plus, local used car dealers have prices listed on internet sites. Another resource is the local newspaper. In determining a final value, considerations must be made for mileage, the condition of the interior and exterior, and whether the car has any added accessories.

Are you “upside down” on your car? That is a common term for the circumstance of owing more on your care than it is worth. If you bought your car new and only had it several months, you may owe more than its market value. Unfortunately, your insurance company will not pay what you owe on the car, only its market value. You will be responsible for the balance owed to the bank or lender. Check to see if you were sold “Gap Insurance” when you financed your car. Gap Insurance pays the difference when you are “upside down” and your care is a total loss. Many car dealers sell Gap Insurance coverage and add it to your purchase price. Check your car purchase documents and make a claim for Gap coverage if you have it.

The insurance claim process can be confusing. However, your insurance company owes you a duty of good faith and fair dealing. It must disclose to you all of your insurance coverages, advise you of your rights under the policy, and guide you through the process. If it does not, you may have claim for bad faith. If you believe you have a bad faith claim, reach out and give us a call to discuss it at no charge. 918.743.3306 or 405.757.7304